SALT LAKE CITY — For the fourth consecutive year, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending a decrease in the number of general-season deer hunting permits. The DWR is asking for the public’s feedback on the recommendations for the number of big game hunting permits for the 2022 seasons, as well as a variety of other big game proposals.
The DWR manages deer, elk, and other wildlife following approved management plans to help maintain healthy wildlife populations across the state. DWR biologists evaluate the health of deer populations throughout the year (through GPS collaring efforts and surveys) and assess the previous year’s harvest data from the deer and elk hunts. That data is factored in with current habitat and environmental conditions across the state — including extreme drought conditions — before the hunting permit recommendations are made for the upcoming hunting seasons.
The current management plan includes an objective to have just over 400,000 deer across Utah — there are currently an estimated 305,700 deer in the state.
“We’ve had several years of drought and are still facing ongoing extreme drought conditions in the state, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. “We currently have more demand for deer hunting in Utah than we have the supply for. While antlerless deer permits, not buck permits, impact deer population numbers, we recommend a decrease for both types of permits. We use the data and management plans to make proactive recommendations for the herd health of our wildlife.”
DWR biologists recommend a total of 73,075 general-season deer hunting permits, which is a 950-permit decrease from the previous year. Of the 29 total deer hunting units across the state, 13 are recommended for decreased permit numbers from the previous year.
“The number of permits we’re proposing for 2022 will help us achieve or maintain the objectives detailed in Utah’s mule deer management plan for harvest size, animal quality, and hunting opportunity,” Jones said.
The current management plan includes an objective of an average age of bull harvest between 4.5 to 8 years of age. DWR biologists recommend decreases on some units but an overall increase in bull elk permits for the 2022 public drawing.
The big game permit recommendations
The table below shows all the permit recommendations for the 2022 big game and antlerless hunting seasons:
|General-season buck deer
|Premium limited-entry deer
|Management buck deer (including “cactus” bucks)
|Handgun, archery, muzzleloader,
and shotgun (HAMS) limited-entry buck deer hunts
|General any bull elk
|17,500 for adults (unlimited for youth)
|General spike bull elk
|Youth any bull elk
|Limited-entry bull elk
|Desert bighorn sheep
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe hunt
New antlerless hunts
DWR biologists also recommend adding one new antlerless deer hunt to address damage to agricultural areas caused by deer. Five new antlerless elk hunts are also being proposed and a new doe pronghorn hunt.
“Antlerless deer hunts are designed to reduce depredation on private lands, tackle urban deer issues, address chronic wasting disease hot spot areas, and help slow the decline of range conditions,” Jones said.
Elk are impacted differently by drought because survival of adults typically remains high, while pregnancy rates have been shown to decline during extreme drought conditions. DWR biologists typically do a census on the state’s elk units on a three-year rotation. This year, the northern parts of the state were surveyed, and elk populations actually slightly increased in some of those areas since they didn’t experience the same extreme drought conditions as some of the central and southern portions of the state. Many of these hunting areas are primarily made up of private lands, so DWR biologists work with private landowners to address depredation issues where elk populations are above objective.
Much of the rest of the state, including central, southern, and southeastern Utah, have elk populations that are at or slightly below their population objectives. As a result, DWR biologists recommend a slight decrease in public draw antlerless elk permits in 2022.
The DWR oversees the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program, which allocates hunting permits to private landowners who then provide hunting opportunities to public and private hunters for various wildlife species. The CWMU program in Utah has opened more than 2 million acres of private land to the public for hunting. The DWR is proposing a total of 1,307 antlerless permits for 69 CWMUs for the 2022 hunting season.
The public meetings for the recommendations can either be viewed virtually or attended in person. You can view the biologists’ presentations before the meetings and share your feedback about them on the DWR website. The presentations are also available on the DWR YouTube channel, but comments can only be submitted through the forms on the DWR website.
The public comment period opened on March 23 for each of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings and the Utah Wildlife Board meeting. Public comments submitted within the online-comment timeframes listed below will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members at each respective meeting. Members of the public can choose to watch the meetings online or attend them in person. If you wish to comment during the meeting, you should attend in person — online comments will only be accepted until the deadlines listed below.
The meetings will be held on the following dates and times:
- Central Utah RAC meeting: April 5 at 6 p.m. at the DWR Springville Office at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by March 31 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northern Utah RAC meeting: April 6 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by March 31 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southern Utah RAC meeting: April 12 at 6 p.m. at the Hunter Conference Center, Charles Hunter Room at Southern Utah University at 405 W. University Blvd. in Cedar City. (Online comments must be submitted by April 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: April 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by April 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: April 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the DWR Vernal Office at 318 N. Vernal Ave. (Online comments must be submitted by April 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Utah Wildlife Board meeting: April 28 at 9 a.m. at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at 1157 South Waterfowl Way in Farmington. (Online comments must be submitted by April 21 at 11:59 p.m.)